One of the biggest mistakes we make when we try to lose weight is that we fight our own bodies. We try to trick our metabolism or somehow think we are going to ‘get around’ our biology by taking XYZ supplements, and the truth is that it rarely works. Just because we are overweight does not mean that our genes have dictated that we will always be fat. It does mean that we are fighting the rising tide and that odds are we won’t be successful when we try to trick our bodies!
Biology is biology and our bodies are going to follow the rules dictated in their genes; if that means hanging onto fat stores to ensure its survival, that’s what it’s going to do, even if we are starving ourselves to lose that thirty pounds stuck on our butts and thighs. In order to lose that extra weight, instead of fighting with our bodies, we need to convince them that we are on their side, because– really– there are no “sides!” It’s all just Us. If our bodies give out and die, so do we, so instead of fighting with them, our best course of action is to learn how to work with our bodies.
Humans are great negotiators, especially when it comes to weight loss. We are fond of telling ourselves that we’ll have this cupcake at work today and we will skip the latte on the way home; then it’s time for the latte and we’re really feeling tired, so we tell ourselves we’ll have the latte and skip the sweet potato fries for dinner; but now it’s dinner time and – you guessed it!– we’re really hungry so we’ll have those fries! “They aren’t that much!”
We try negotiating and blurring the edges by telling ourselves that “we’re working really hard” or “it was a very stressful day” or “I’ve been so good lately.” Whatever we are telling ourselves, unless we are actually eating healthier or being more active or doing what’s best for our health, none of what we tell ourselves matters!
I see this in every episode of My 600 lb Life: patients try bargaining with Dr. Nowzaradan like he is in control of their bodies and it’s his choice whether they are healthy enough for bariatric surgery or not. He tries impressing on them: #1) whatever they decide to put into their mouths is ultimately their own choice; #2) if they choose not to follow his diet and recommendations, it is only a matter of time until their bodies give out and they die. Even patients who do follow the diet and lose weight are still at risk as one of his patients nearly died on the table.
Obviously, most of us aren’t that close to death because of our weight, but we still try bargaining our way out of doing what’s best for our health. We are used to eating something sweet after dinner and we just couldn’t resist those cravings! So, here we are having a “small bowl” of ice cream. We’ve been really good so we decided to treat ourselves to a slice of pizza, or we wanted to try that new sandwich at the deli or whatever excuse we had for eating what we did. Bottom line: if it’s too much food, or too much sugar or too much whatever it was, our bodies aren’t going to give us a pass on gaining weight or not losing just because we “really had a craving” or have been “doing really good.”
While most of us aren’t going to die if we don’t lose that thirty pounds of spare tire around our midsection, the health effects show up anyway. Usually we have stiff joints or arthritis from carrying around that extra weight. Our blood pressure can go up; our blood glucose goes up and we end up diabetic or pre-diabetic. We have conditions like acid reflux, heart burn and get a bit breathless when we have to take the stairs or do some prolonged walking. We tell ourselves “we’re trying” but how hard are we really working on weight loss? Does that A1c go down any? Or our blood pressure? Is taking the stairs any easier?
I know how hard it is to have cravings and how much we really want to indulge in the carbs or the sugar. But at the end of the day, even though we’ve lied to ourselves, we really haven’t lied to our bodies: they know what we ate and how much of it too! We can tell ourselves, our families and our doctors that we’ve been sticking to our healthy eating plan, working really hard and doing good but our bodies know the truth of those statements and they can’t lie. The A1c shows how much sugar we’ve eaten; our triglycerides show how often you eat refined carbs and that spare tire around your middle is looking well-inflated!
What we don’t realize is that when we do eat healthier, get plenty of rest and activity, our bodies start letting go of the extra weight. We’re not only giving our metabolism plenty of fuel, we are giving it the “good stuff.” That means it doesn’t need to hang onto the spare tire so the extra pounds start to disappear. It means the A1c drops and the blood pressure and there is less acid reflux waking us up in the middle of the night. It means the stiff achy joints are less stiff and achy. We haven’t beaten our bodies at their own game: the opposite is true. We’ve learned how to play their game by eating more whole foods, less processed foods and eating only when we are hungry instead of according to the clock.
Most of us don’t remember what it felt like when we actually felt ‘good’ instead of just ‘better than yesterday.’ We don’t remember how if felt to wake up feeling rested or to have all kinds of energy at the end of the day. We hear all those platitudes like “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels!” but they don’t mean anything to us because we don’t remember how if felt being thin (some of us were never thin!) Feeling good, feeling rested, having energy: those are the benefits of not trying to lie to our bodies. When we learn to listen to our bodies instead of trying to lie to them about what we are or aren’t eating, they reward us. It’s not a “sweet treat” we get but a healthy feeling that lasts all day instead of just a minute or two. The best thing about listening to your body is that great feeling doesn’t go away: it just keeps going on and on until one day, we don’t remember how bad we felt before. That’s the real truth and all those foods we thought were ‘worth it’? That’s the real lie.